The day before Good Friday, 2015, four terrorists from the Islamist group al-Shabab killed at least 148 Kenyan Christians in a vicious and bloody attack on a college campus. When Christians gathered for Easter services just a few days later, some were frisked at the door and searched for weapons and explosives. At many churches, while worshippers praised the resurrected Jesus indoors, armed security kept watch outside to protect those within.
It’s hard to know how you would respond to such vicious attacks until they occur in your region. In Kenya, the threat of violence doesn’t stop believers from gathering together as a body. “Nowhere is safe, but in church you can come, be with God and just console yourself,” as one young Christian puts it.
“Nowhere is safe, but in church you can come, be with God ..."
Violence against Christians in Kenya has risen significantly in recent years. Sometimes churches are targeted, other times it is individual believers and their families who suffer. Pastor Charles Matole was found in his church, slumped over in his chair after having been shot in his head. He still had his Bible in his lap. Even though he had received several death threats in the months leading up to his murder, the police never launched any investigations.
Although roughly fifty percent of Kenya is Christian, the northwest regions are traditionally Muslim. Islamic extremists also enter Kenya through Somalia and create further unrest. Militant groups like al-Shabab are gaining power, and local groups are lobbying for the implementation of Sharia law, which would effectively end all remaining religious freedom for Christians in Kenya.
Although the Kenyan church faces many struggles, the entire nation of Kenya also needs our prayers. Most Kenyans subsist below the poverty level of one dollar a day. Urban slums, drug trafficking, AIDS orphans are all symptoms of a greater problem of poverty in Kenya. Today, let’s pray for God to pour his grace over the nation of Kenya, to fill believers with courage, to bring their persecutors to repentance, and to bring an end to the crimes and violence caused by religious intolerance and extreme poverty.